Offshore Companies are commonly used to own/operate online businesses.
In principle here’s how it can work:
- A nil tax offshore company (commonly an International Business Company “IBC”) is incorporated
- The IBC owns/operates the web based business (eg ownership of the web-domain and the website/artworks or trademark/s or any sole distributor rights are held by or transferred to the IBC)
- An Offshore account (which received payments via a merchant account) is set up in a nil tax banking centre
- Ideally the server is located in a country which does not tax business on the basis of server location (eg Singapore etc)
- Customers contract with and pay the IBC. All such monies are banked free of tax in the first instance
- You or your local company would be contracted by the IBC to manage sales inquiries/delivery of product,to manage marketing or to oversee website maintenance/whatever.
- Ideally the product would be delivered online or delivered directly by the manufacturer to your customer.
- You would invoice the IBC periodically (eg monthly) for the services you provide which income would be assessable income in your home country – though a smart Tax Accountant should be able to assist you to claim a series of expense against this income (eg home office, equipment, travel, phone/internet/utilities etc) to significantly reduce the amount of tax payable on this income.
- Often there is some kind of intellectual property (“IP”) created or behind the website based business (even if it’s just the website/design). It may be advantageous to you down the track if ownership of the business and the IP were held by 2 different entities. What you can do there is set up a 2nd IBC to own the IP. The first IBC (ie the Trading Company) pays license fees periodically to the 2nd IBC which fees wold be receipted tax free. This could be advantageous if you wanted to, down the track, bring ownership of the web-business onshore or if you wanted to sell the business but keep a passive (potentially tax free) income stream
- Ideally once you start to grow (and to add substance) you would be wise to set up your MD/Board and or a sales team onshore to take orders and receive income in a low tax onshore environment (eh Hong Kong, Ireland, Singapore, Cyprus etc as per the Amazon/Google model)
To minimise the chances of the IBC being taxed onshore ideally (a) a Seychelles Private Interest Foundation should be set up to shift underlying legal and beneficial ownership of the Company away from yourself and (b) the IBC should be (and be seen to be) managed and controlled from offshore. How this can be achieved is by including a Nominee Director etc as part of the Corporate structure. See these pages for details of how that can work:
Local laws can have an impact hence it would be wise to seek legal/tax advice before committing to travel down this road.